Happy New Year, and I hope 2021 finds you in fine fettle. In the time-honoured tradition of starting a new beginning with healthy, life-affirming habits, we have dedicated this first issue of the year to what we hope will be a guide to feeling your very best. From the world’s top beauty and grooming treatments, to new innovations in immune-boosting cell therapies and restorative meditation, this How To Spend It should offer ideas and inspiration for anyone who’s feeling in a funk right now, as well as those who like to suck the marrow out of life.
When Julia Cameron wrote her bestselling self-help mantra, The Artist’s Way, back in 1992, her wowy passion for stream-of-consciousness journalling, known as “morning pages”, seemed like a flashback to some granola hippy fad. But in the subsequent decades, Cameron’s simple theories have galvanised an army of ardent fans. In “The Listening Project”, she talks about her latest efforts to help us unlock our true creative selves via listening – to yourself, to your role models, to your late relatives and to the universe – in 2021. I would describe myself as a hardcore sceptic who bristles at expressions such as using “mental ladders” or listening with “the ear behind the ear”. But after the past few months, where communication has been stymied by WhatsApp, Slack and other platforms that are efficient but rather brusque to use, Cameron’s “woo woo” theories, as she calls them, may well prove a useful aid.
Another star of psycho-enlightenment, Deepak Chopra has converted millions of devotees to his school of mindful thinking, as well as making millions from his classes, books and meditation apps. In this week’s Double Act, he talks about how his alternative theories have been gradually adopted by the mainstream with his friend and follower of 30 years, the investor and New Age enthusiast Carmen Busquets. Chopra is now entrenched back in mainstream medicine, and working on an emotionally responsive “bot” he believes will help combat suicide. Busquets has channelled her intuition into some multimillion-dollar deals. The pair’s observations about success, happiness and the future make for a fascinating insight.
I also recommend Michelle Ogundehin’s essay on comfort and how our homes might look in the months ahead. While the current need for sanitised environments has provoked a flood of cool, sleek minimal design, Michelle argues that the corollary of so much caution will find us seeking even greater tactile pleasure in the “bubble” of the home. However, she also heeds a quote by Swami Vivekananda: “Comfort is no test of truth. Truth is often far from being comfortable.” The new comfort, she tells us, is as likely to be found in cold showers and outdoor exertion as it is in fluffy robes.
Not everyone seeks to improve themselves on such a transcendental level. In fairness, I would feel a great deal better if I just woke up without frown lines, or if my hair would occasionally behave. In one of my favourite features this week, two Financial Times editors take on the challenge of dressing for the bicycle commute (“Which Gear Are You In?”) – an activity that does much to raise the pulse rate but can wreak havoc on one’s look. Flora Macdonald Johnston has decided to go full Victoria Pendleton, and opts for reams of Lycra, techno fabrics and even cleats. Beatrice Hodgkin prefers to glide from saddle to cocktail hour without the need for a Superman- style change: her list of cycling essentials include a lot of knee-protecting ponchos, designer panniers and a “suffragette” high-vis sash. Both are the epitome of very different cycling styles – and both look extremely sleek.
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